Fujifilm’s X-mount cameras have truly re-invigorated the enthusiast interchangeable-lens camera market. The quirky X-Pro and the SLR-style X-T1 kicked the whole thing off, with Fujifilm’s terrific, almost film-like X-Trans sensor, an excellent range of zoom and prime lenses, rugged build and old-school external controls.
The original 16-megapixel X-Trans sensor was starting to look underpowered in a market dominated by 24MP cameras, so the arrival of the X-Pro 2, X-T2 and now the X-T20 has caused quite a stir.
In effect, the X-T20 replaces the X-T10, but the improvements go far beyond a simple increase in resolution. The new sensor is teamed up with Fujifilm’s new X-Processor Pro image processor to deliver faster start-up, better autofocus tracking and improved continuous shooting.
The X-T20 can also shoot 4K video and, thanks to the more powerful processor, it can apply Fujifilm’s famed Film Simulation modes to shots at the same time, including the new black-and-white Acros option. The ISO range is also higher than the X-T10’s, with a maximum of ISO 12,800, or 51,200 in ‘expanded’ mode.
Best of all, the X-T20 gets the new autofocus system seen in the X-T2, with 91 AF points (325 in single-point AF mode) covering around 85% of the frame (you don’t get that coverage with a digital SLR) and 49 cross-type AF points in a central area, covering around 40% of the frame. Fujifilm’s aim is to match the continuous autofocus and subject-tracking capability of the best SLRs; it’s taken another big step closer here.
Round the back, Fujifilm has added touch control to the tilting LCD display, and on the top of the camera there’s a new Auto lever to quickly switch the camera to full auto mode when there’s no time to think about the settings or you’re passing it over to someone else to use.
The X-T20 represents a major upgrade over the X-T10. In fact, it’s so powerful you may be wondering what the more expensive X-T2 has that this camera doesn’t. Well, the X-T2 is larger and more robust – it’s dust-proof, splash-proof and freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Centigrade. It has an ISO dial and a metering mode switch, while the X-T20 relies on menus for these settings; it has a slightly better buffer capacity and – with an optional battery grip – a faster 11fps continuous shooting speed. The X-T2 also has improved video options, a sideways tilting screen (as well as up/down) and twin UHS II card slots. (The X-T20 has a single UHS I card slot.)
If you don’t need these features, or don’t think they’re worth the extra money, the X-T20 is a tempting proposition. It may be the X-T2’s little brother, but it still packs plenty of power, and it sacrifices fewer of the X-T2’s capabilities than you’d think.
Build and handling
The X-T20 is a likeable little camera that impresses you as soon as you pick it up. It’s more compact than an APS-C SLR, with the squared-off edges of an old-fashioned 35mm film SLR. Fujifilm’s 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 kit lens feels a fraction large for the camera when it’s fitted, but you shouldn’t let that put you off: it’s the best match for the X-T20’s features and image quality.
The OLED electronic viewfinder is excellent. It’s sharp and vibrant and shows no discernible lag, even in dim lighting. The tilting rear screen is good too; while it doesn’t have the sideways tilt of the X-T2, it does have Touch Focus, Touch Focus Area Selection and Touch Shot, if you enable it. If you don’t want to use the touchscreen for focus point selection, you can press the ‘down’ navigation button and move the AF point with the directional controls.
The X-T20’s top view highlights the difference between Fujifilm’s X-mount mirrorless cameras and other SLRs and CSCs. For a start, there’s no mode dial. You set the shutter speed using a dial on top of the camera or set it to the A position if you want it to select the shutter speed automatically (Aperture Priority mode). Likewise, you choose the aperture value on the lens, or set this to A if you want the camera to choose it for you (Shutter Priority mode). Or you set both to the A position to effectively get Program AE mode.
The aperture setting is where it can get slightly complicated. Only a few of Fujifilm’s high-end lenses have aperture rings with f-stop markings. Lesser lenses, like the 18-55mm kit lens, have a simple manual/auto switch: when the lens is set to manual, you turn a ring on the lens to adjust the aperture value, which is shown on the camera’s display. Some lenses lack either, and the aperture is set solely by the controls on the camera body.
Fujifilm’s dial-based exposure control is a brilliant idea; it’s just a shame it’s not carried through fully on all of its X-mount lenses.
Still on the top of the camera, there’s a drive mode dial on the far left and an EV compensation dial on the far right. This goes up to +/-3EV but has an additional C position, which allows you to go up to +/-5EV using the front control dial.
These control dials have different functions, depending on the mode you’re in. They work pretty well, but their ‘click’ action for additional functions can be annoying. It is easy to press too hard as you try to turn them, and activate a function you didn’t want.
More annoyingly, it’s too easy to press the ‘up’ navigation button on the back of the camera with the base of your thumb as you’re handling the camera. This displays the Sync Terminal M Setting screen, which is no doubt useful in the right context, but we were sick of the sight of it by the end of the test.
As good as the dial-based controls are, there are still some settings that need the menus. There are two bracketing settings on the drive mode dial, for example – which is very handy – but you have to dig pretty deep into the menus to change the EV steps for exposure bracketing, which are in the Drive Setting section of the Shooting Setting menu.
The X-T20’s state-of-the-art hybrid autofocus system sounds complicated, but actually it isn’t. If you want to follow fast-moving objects in continuous shooting mode, your best bet is to use the Zone AF mode and try to keep the AF zone over your subject. Remember to turn the AF mode switch on the front of the camera to C or ‘continuous’, or the AF will not track your subject.
Despite all those lovely external dials, the X-T20 still relies heavily on its menu system and its ‘Q’ quick settings screen. It may take a little while to figure out the location of some of the more in-depth controls.
The X-T20’s performance is so good in so many ways that it’s hard to fault. The metering system produced great results across different situations; the only time compensation was needed was with intrinsically light or dark subjects – and that’s the same for any in-camera metering system.
It’s worth mentioning Fujifilm’s dynamic range expansion system. You can set this to 100% (no expansion), 200% (1EV expansion) or 400% (2EV expansion); or set it to Auto so that it adjusts the dynamic range automatically. This can be useful in bright or contrasty conditions, and it can be used with the camera’s highlight and shadow tone adustments to control really bright highlights or dense shadows. This, combined with Fujifilm’s attractive Film Simulation modes, means that you can get closer to the perfect ‘look’ without having to shoot and process raw files.
The most striking film simulations are Velvia, which produces dense, vivid colours, and the new Acros black-and-white mode which seems to deliver deeper, richer tones than the regular monochrome option.
Fujifilm’s 18-55mm f2.8-4.0 kit lens is a cut above the average kit lens too, producing great detail, contrast and sharpness. The X-T20 can match any digital SLR or mirrorless rival in its price range for image quality.
The new autofocus system is good too. For single-shot photography, its acquisition speed and accuracy feel as good as a mid-range SLR and it doesn’t slow down when you switch from the viewfinder to live view.
It’s pretty impressive with moving subjects, too; although we did get a few dud shots during our continuous shooting tests, that was more to do with operator error than the camera’s AF system. It takes practice to centre a fast-moving subject, and it’s easy to blame the camera for unfocused shots when in fact it’s the framing that caused the error.
Having said that, the combination of screen blackout and slowdown as the buffer fills can make it difficult to follow subjects towards the end of a burst – it’s probably best to stick to JPEGs rather than raw files if you don’t know how long you’ll need to keep the shutter button pressed.
The X-T20 is a really impressive little camera. It uses the same sensor as the more expensive X-T2 and matches most of the bigger camera’s features. So often, when you choose a cheaper model, you feel as if you’re giving away more performance or control than you want to – but that’s not the case with the X-T20.